Big moves are taking place in the arena of lithium-ion recycling. | Courtesy of Tevva Media

In recent weeks, Li-Cycle received federal funding for a facility, AquaMetals announced a technology breakthrough and Ecobat shared its plans to build a facility in Arizona. 

Here are the details on the latest lithium-ion battery recycling news. 

Li-Cycle nets federal funding 

Battery recycler Li-Cycle got a conditional $375 million loan from the U.S. federal government to support its Rochester, N.Y. battery recycling hub, which is currently under construction

The Rochester Hub is slated for commissioning in late 2023. Once fully operational, it will be able to produce up to 8,500 tons of lithium carbonate, 48,000 tons of nickel sulfate and 7,500 tons of cobalt sulfate from recycled batteries.

The grant is from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program. The loan is a conditional commitment, meaning it “reflects the DOE’s intent to finance the project” but awaits documentation of long-form agreements and Li-Cycle meeting certain conditions, a press release noted.

The loan is expected to close in the second quarter of 2023. It will have a term of up to 12 years. A Loan Programs Office press release noted this conditional commitment is the fifth critical materials and EV supply chain project announced under the ATVM program within the past year and is the first for a pure-play lithium-ion battery recycling company. 

Ajay Kochhar, Li-Cycle co-founder, president and CEO, said in his company’s press release that the loan “further supports our efforts to create a sustainable domestic supply chain of battery-grade materials.” 

The Responsible Battery Coalition (RBC) said in a statement that Li-Cycle “lives up to the RBC’s Green Principles by putting the circularity in the circular economy” and added that the investment will help bring lithium-ion battery recycling rates up to the same level of lead-acid batteries.

Aqua Metals announces technology breakthrough 

Aqua Metals said it has recovered high-purity lithium hydroxide from lithium-ion battery black mass at its Li AquaRefining recycling facility in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center. 

Steve Cotton, CEO and president of Aqua Metals, said in a press release that he believes “Li AquaRefining is now the only proven battery recycling technology that can produce lithium hydroxide at scale – avoiding the need for additional costly and polluting refinement.” 

“This new capability can have a profound impact on the lithium battery industry in North America,” he added. “Our sustainably recycled lithium can help ensure a robust supply of critical metals to meet the Inflation Reduction Act’s ambitious goals for domestic content.” 

The immediate recovery of lithium hydroxide improves the economics of recycling advanced battery chemistries like lithium iron phosphate, the press release noted. The Li AquaRefining pilot became operational in 2022 and is the first pilot scale electro-hydrometallurgy battery recycling facility in North America. 

The patent-pending process mainly uses electricity to recover the materials. The pilot facility can recover lithium hydroxide, manganese dioxide, pure cobalt, nickel and copper metals. It “provides the design basis for the company’s 10,000 ton per year lithium battery recycling campus planned for phased development starting later this year,” the press release noted. 

Ecobat to build Arizona facility 

International battery recycler Ecobat decided to build its third lithium-ion battery recycling facility in Casa Grande, Ariz. 

It’s the first lithium-ion recycling facility in North America for the company, though it does have an anode manufacturing company nearby. Ecobat also has lithium-ion recycling facilities in Germany and the United Kingdom. 

The Arizona facility will be able to produce 10,000 tons of recycled material per year, with the ability to expand capacity, a press release noted. It will sort, shred and separate battery materials to produce black mass. Start-up is expected in the third quarter of 2023.

Marcus Randolph, Ecobat CEO, said the Arizona location “represents a significant milestone in Ecobat’s strategy to grow our lithium-ion battery recycling business to a scale, similar to our world-leading lead battery recycling business.”

­British electric vehicle manufacturer Tevva also announced that it will partner with Ecobat for the repair, repurposing and recycling of its lithium-ion batteries, starting with a 12-month pilot phase. 


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